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Armenian Forum
Current ArticleTension, Emotion at Harvard Turkish-
By Editor on Nov 20, 2009 in Armenia
By Daphne Abeel
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Something unprecedented happened at Harvard University’s Tsai Auditorium on the night of Monday, November 16. A capacity audience of 200 that included, among others, members of the Armenian community, Turkish students and Henry Morgenthau, the grandson of US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire of the same name, heard Hasan Cemal, the grandson of Cemal Pasha, one of the three architects of the Armenian Genocide, acknowledge the Armenian Genocide.

The forum, titled “Armenian-Turkish Reconciliation: Routes through Empowerment,” was moderated by Pamela Steiner (great-granddaughter of Ambassador Henry Morgenthau), senior fellow at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, and Eileen Babbitt, professor of practice in international conflict management, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, at Tufts University.

In addition to Cemal, the speakers included Asbed Kotchikian of Bentley University and Yektan Turkyilmaz of Duke University. The event was co-sponsored by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the University Committee on Human Rights Study and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. Taner Akçam, professor of Armenian Genocide Studies at Clark University, joined the panel for the question-and-answer period. Jennifer Leaning introduced the program.

Tension and emotion were palpable as the audience, in total silence, heard Cemal, whose grandfather ordered the killing of thousands of Armenians, detail his journey towards recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Detailing his family background, Cemal reviewed his family roots. His grandfather was born on the island of Lesbos and his grandmother came from Greek Macedonia. On his mother’s side, his grandfather was Circassian and his grandmother was from Georgia. His father was born in Salonika, and Cemal himself was born in Istanbul in 1944.

“Cemal Pasha was the story in our family,” said Cemal. “We heard about the First World War and how the Armenians cooperated with the enemy. They had to be deported. The same story was circulated not only in the family, but in the schools.”

Hasan Cemal studied political science at Ankara University but stated he ‘“learned nothing about 1915, nothing about the Kurds or the Alewites or the Armenians. We learned nothing about these terrible pages of history.”

When Hasan Cemal became a journalist, he was warned not to travel to Lebanon without a bodyguard, and for the past six years, and especially since the assassination of his friend Hrant Dink, the founding editor and publisher of Agos, a Turkish-Armenian newspaper, he has worn protective gear.

It was Taner Akçam’s book, published in 1991, which helped to stimulate Hasan Cemal’s curiosity about what happened in 1915. “For the first time, Akçam called it a genocide….This was the beginning of the end of living in lies and living in truth. Akçam opened our hearts to a tragic past. A new process started in 2000. Turkey began to want harmony with the European Union,” he said.

Both Akçam and Cemal have been called traitors.

In 1996, when Dink began to publish Agos, it became another step in Hasan Cemal’s education about the Genocide.

The first conference on the issue of the Genocide was scheduled to take place in Istanbul in 2005, but the high court banned it. Since then, said Cemal, conferences have been held in Turkey, the most recent on the massacre in Adana, just this month.

After Dink’s funeral, Cemal reminded his audience, “One hundred thousand Turks marched in Istanbul, shouting “‘We are all Armenians.’”

Further, said Cemal, 30,000 Turks, signed a petition of apology for what happened in 1915.

“I changed altogether my view of what happened in 1915. I even met with the grandson of the man who assassinated my grandfather in 1922. I invited him to Istanbul. He had been an Armenian nationalist, but he began to understand the other side of the story.“

Cemal traveled to Armenia in 2006 and visited the Genocide Memorial in Yerevan. Later, “deeply affected by Hrant Dink’s death, Cemal wrote a column for the Turkish paper, Milliyet, titled, “First Let Us Respect Each Other’s Pain.”

Said Cemal, “It is impossible to escape history, how pointless it is to deny history, and how pointless it is to be the victim of one’s own suffering.”

In conclusion, Hasan Cemal said, “Let us understand each other’s pain. Good things will come of this. The road to recognition is through democracy.”

The next speaker, Turkyilmaz, who is of Kurdish descent, said, “It is no easy task to challenge the perceived version of history. For example, for Armenians it is taboo to admit the murders they committed in the 1970s. What we need to do is place our memories of the past side by side, and we should not ignore the sufferings of Turkish Muslims.”

Concerning the recent protocols signed by Armenia and Turkey regarding the opening of the borders, Turkyilmaz said he supported the creation of an historic commission to study the archives but that it should be independent of government control and not “repeat the old dog fight.”

Next, Kotchikian noted that there are two issues that are separate from one another: normalization and reconciliation. “Normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia is an issue for the states. Reconciliation cannot occur between states. There is a difference between Turkey-Armenia, and Turks and Armenians. Reconciliation has to include all aspects of both nations and the Armenian Diaspora.” And Kotchikian noted that there are many diasporas, yet all are united around the issue of the denial of the Genocide.

He also responded to the question of whether Armenians in Armenia care about the Genocide. “There are no posters, no slogans, but 50 to 60 percent of the population in Armenia are descendants of the victims of the Genocide. Armenia’s Armenians may not talk a lot about it, but they commemorate it.”

“Finally,” said Kotchikian, “we need to recognize that Turkey is not the same as it was 100 years ago. There is a small, civil society, a sort of fifth branch of the government. It is time for Armenians to realize that changes have taken place in Turkey and time to re-evaluate the world of the last two decades. We should not allow genocide victimhood to pervade everything.”

The question-and-answer period unleashed some raw emotions on the parts of both Turks and Armenians in the audience. One elderly Armenian man, who spoke in Turkish, thanked Hasan Cemal for his comments and later shook his hand. One Turkish man questioned why the term “genocide” had to be used at all, and seemed not to recognize that the word, coined by Raphael Lemkin, was invented to apply specifically to the Armenian Genocide. Poignantly, a young Turkish student, now at Northeastern University, asked, “Well what am I supposed to do? What do you want from me? Cemal’s remarks seemed a fitting conclusion to the evening. “We must empathize and share,” he said. “We should open our hearts before we open the borders.”

Certainly, this forum was significant for the presence of Hasan Cemal, an imposing man in his mid 60s, a Turk, who acknowledged the Genocide to a partly Armenian audience.

A second forum, featuring mostly the same speakers, took place Tuesday, November 17, at the Armenian Cultural and Educational Association (ACEC) in Watertown, sponsored by the Friends of Hrant Dink. Coverage of that event will appear in next week’s issue.

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8 Comment(s)Kiazer Souze | Nov 21, 2009 | Reply

An ethnic group’s fight for justice and democracy never justifies the murder of 1.5 million people by a bunch of incompetent bafoons trying to save face. Nor does it justify forced conversions, and the rape of girls and boys.

It is the same with an alcholic. They will never recover until they admit they have a problem.

Alex Postallian | Nov 23, 2009 | Reply

Let us not be naive,its all about OIL,$$$$.Do you believe any one is interested in the Armenian plight,with all that money on the table,including the U.S.instead of supporting Armenian politicos,we suppert Bush,Obama,who lied about support.The Jews did it and they been manipulating the U.S. for years in the middle east.

Ergun Kirlikovali | Nov 23, 2009 | Reply

As long as the responsible opposing Turkish views are censored in panels dealing with Turkish-Armenian conflict, such as the one described above , there cannot be any normalization or reconciliation.

The representatives of half a million Turkish-Americans, i.e. ATAA in Washington DC, FTAA in New York, and others elsewhere, were deliberately not invited, not welcome, and need not apply. Only like minded speakers are heard presenting only one side of the story.

And the attendants? That’s even worse. Only well-known falsifiers are invited:

Taner Akcam – Paid Armenian agent finance while in Minnesota by Cafesjian Foundations and the notoriously anti-Turkish, racist organization called Zoryan Institute. His credentials as professor are challenged at best, questionable even fake at worst. He hides from Turkish speakers for these very reasons.

Hasan Cemal – A known anti-Turkish government, anti-establishment bigot with obsolete views of far left trying to avenge the Turkish Republic for personal reasons (not the least of which may have to do with yearning for the Ottoman Empire)

Henry Morgenthau – Grandson of a racist, anti-Turkish ambassador who played a career diplomat, a historian, and a writer, but in fact he was none of those. Henry Morgenthau Sr. was a real estate agent and a developer, who raised the most funds for Wilson in 1912 campaign and rewarded for it with a an ambassadorial post. He spoke none of the languages in his new post, did not understand the culture, and relied heavily on his two male Armenian male secretaries, Andonian and Schmavonian, to file embellished and falsified field reports concocted by Armenian revolutionaries and equally anti-Turkish mentors, the US Protestant missionaries. Even Morgentahu’s propaganda book published in 1918 was ghost written by a Pulitzer prize winner and reviewed by the then Secretary of State Lansing. It was a hatchet job designed to induce anti-Turkish hatred in order to drum up support for the U.S. entry into the WWI on the side of the allies.

Hrant Dink is mentioned but Kemal Arikan curiously not. Arikan was also assassinated in an identical but reciprocal hate crime in Los Angeles in 1982 by an Armenian teenager; Arikan was at the same age (52) and marital status (married) with daughters. An exact mirror image of the Dink crime. Yet, one is cunningly glorified, the other one is shamelessly dismissed, along with hundreds of other Turkish victims of Armenian terrorism during the 1970s and 1980s. This is the flaw in Armenian narratives. They only see one side of the story, never the other. This has always been the flaw in Armenian historiology: they tell tall tales in a vacuum where only Armenians exist.

Armenian activists can run from the facts, but they cannot hide from them. Panels like this are doomed to be considered poor attempts at propaganda, manipulation, and misinformation to shape public opinion , not seek the truth.

Message to Armenian activists: Continue to censor Turkish thought s and be doomed to stay incomplete, poor, violent, and paralyzed; include Turkish thought and learn about the other side of the story (like the six T’s of the Turkish-Armenian conflict, TERESET, Ethocide, and others.) After all, empathy is a two way street.

Hollow stunts like the Harvard panel above or honest attempts at reconciliation by learning to include the other side of the story?

What is the choice?

Stepan | Nov 24, 2009 | Reply

I attended the Harvard forum and found it to be a memorable experience. I don’t have to agree with all the panelists to respect their courage and commitment. I observed no attempt to not hear all perspectives. In fact, one young Turkish man , who’s view was consisten twith denial had prominent time in the Q and A.
The panel consisted of people who are commited to
or have studied conflict and reconciliation. In that light,it was wise to not invite panelists on the edge of both communities. For those of us in the audience, listening was the most rewarding experience. As Armenians, we have to do our part to listen and learn. Repeating our position on the unfinished political agenda was not the intent. It is in our interests to see an enlightened civil society develop in Turkey. If we are truly commited to our cause, we will recognize that change within the Turkish and Armenian communities towards each will improve our position. Turkey knows what happened in 1915. They have denied the truth to their people for decades. Emerging from that cloud is a long process. We should encourage dialogue as the as displaying light where there was only darkness.

jda | Nov 24, 2009 | Reply

Mr. Kirlikovali is a racist, and a dumb one, who unfortunately is the President Elect of the Assembly of Turkish American Organizations. I suppose that most Turkish Americans could not care less.

Kirlikovali has posted stuff that would make Nazis rejoice: that Armenians are “backstabbers”"traitors” “murderers” “rats”, and he has gone so far last year as to compare the deaths of 1915-1923 to a joke about a dead fly. One assumes this sort of Nazi-level stuff is not in line with the best PR face various disgraced former US Members of Congress can concoct for a client state trying hard to appear moderate, democratic and western.

On January 19, 2007, he wrote in Turkish Digest that Hrant Dink was killed by an “anti-Turk”, which is code for an Armenian.

Anyone who supoorts the Genocide thesis is equally subject to attack, please see this gem from his post above concerning Ambassador Morgenthau:

“relied heavily on his two male Armenian male secretaries, Andonian and Schmavonian, to file embellished and falsified field reports concocted by Armenian revolutionaries and equally anti-Turkish mentors, the US Protestant missionaries.”

Much as Kirlikovali spouts off about glorious Turkey and even more glorious Turks, whom he has all but praised as a sort of Master Ottoman Race, he hasn’t any stomach to live there or marrying one: he has resided in this Country for decades, and married his very non Turkish American wife, about whom he brags in print.

But apparently the concepts of freedom of speech, freedom of association and academic freedom haven’t quite cracked his combovered skull.

I guess you can take the Boy out of authoritarian, fascist Turkey, but not the fascism out of the boy.

Mirsad | Nov 28, 2009 | Reply

Let Armenians cool themselves off with these pitiful occasions. They find one Turk out of a 72 million thinking their way and it makes them happy.

john | Nov 30, 2009 | Reply

The Turkish pain and suffering? Please, that is about as useful as trying to understand the Nazi suffering?

Let’s get this straight: The Turks were brutal occupiers for hundreds of years. After all of their other oppressed nationalities escaped their Ottoman prison through revolt and armed conflict the only ones left were the Armenians. However, their ancient homeland lay right in the heart of Anatolia itself. So under the guise of “traitors” the Turks in 1915 decided upon genocide and carried it out! The whole purpose of the genocide was theft. After the WW1 Ottoman defeat, the same Turkish players that committed the Armenian Genocide just took of their fezzes and recreated the new republic of Turkey. Yet their genocidal master race residue still lingers.

The Turks then spent the next 90 years living in fantasy land by re-creating a false bubble of their glorious yet victim past and even though they themselves were responsible for their own and everyone’s suffering and pain, still refuse to take any responsibility. That is evident not only by Cemal’s attitude that Armenians need to understand Turks’ ’suffering’ but by the usual postings of Turkish racist propagandist Kirli-the Clown usual irrelevant and grossly distorted rants of labeling all official documents, like the 40,000 pages in our own U.S archives or any eye witnesses accounts or scholarly work as falsifiers, liars and anti-Turkish etc. Everything but the truth! That has become the Turkish motto: Everything but the truth!

Cemal: How about passing out history books to everyone in Turkey not written by someone in Turkey.


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